Forum artHighlights From the Forum

October 10 through 16, 1999

Subject: Tidal Data
Date: 10/12/99
From: Mike Muenich

Here I go again, with apologies. I noted in reading, (actually catching up), one of Mr. Gillespie's responses to reef wreckage, that the Navy photo taken at the time of the search, shows a "high" tide on the reef. I presume that we know or can find out Lambrect's time of departure, route and return to Colorado, and by calculation his approximate time or range of time over the reef. Would any of this be useful in working tidal times backwards to July 3?

From Ric

Establishing the time of what we have come to call "The Lambrecht Photo" is trickier than it would seem. The planes were catapulted from the Colorado at 07:00 on July 9, 1937 and flew first to McKean Island before proceeding to Gardner. After spending an unspecified amount of time over Gardner they continued on to Carondelet Reef and then returned to the ship where they were hoisted aboard around 10:00. However, in returning to the ship their route may have taken them back over Gardner, so we don't whether the photo was taken during the initial inspection or on the way back to the Colorado. That make as much as an hour and a half's difference in the time of the photo. All we can say with any certainty is that between, say, 08:15 and 09:45 there was high water on the reef at Gardner, but we don't know whether the tide pictured in the photo was at peak high water or on its way in or on its way out.

One of the things this investigation has taught me is that it's just as important to realize and accept what you DON'T and probably CAN'T know as it is to understand what you DO and CAN know.


Subject: Re: Tidal Data
Date: 10/12/99
From: Randy Jacobson

I believe the Lambrecht photo was taken just before landing back on the Colorado. The photo was taken from high elevation from the SE. This position corresponds nicely with the reconstructed track of the planes with their return back from Carondelet Reef. If it was during their approach to Gardner, they would be at lower elevation and closer to the island, and not from the SE, as McKean is to the NE. If they were leaving Gardner to Carondelet, they also would have been at lower elevation, and would show a picture from the W. The only reasonable scenario for being S or SE of Gardner at elevation and distance is on the return to Colorado. It also makes sense that on the return flight back to the ship that personnel would have time to get the camera out and take a picture; otherwise their eyeballs would be concentrating on finding wreckage. While not proof, this scenario makes an awful lot of sense.

From Ric

(Randy and I have hassled about this before.)

Plotting this out on a chart of the Phoenix Group and using the Colorado deck logs, I can't make it work. I don't see how a photo taken upon departure from Gardner for Carondelet would show the island from the west. Carondelet is southeast of Gardner. If you leave Gardner to head for Carondelet Reef you depart the island from just east of the island's southeastern tip -- just where the Lambrecht photo was taken from. The photo shows no part of the airplane in the frame. The only way to do that with an 03U-3 is to shoot looking toward the 4 to 5 o'clock or from the 7 to 8 o'clock position. The angle of the Lambrecht photo is consistent with a departing shot taken toward the 4 to 5 o'clock position. The altitude looks to be ballpark 1,200 feet -- no big deal to climb there from a search that, according to Lambrecht, didn't go lower than 400 feet.

Drawing a line back from Carondelet Reef past the point where the photo was taken misses the Colorado's track entirely.

(Randy will be here for a planning conference later this month and we'll have a chance to draw lines on maps, pound on desks and throw coffee cups at each other.)


Subject: Lambrecht Photo
Date 10/14/99
From: Jim Thompson

Re-reading Lambrecht's report of the flight to Gardner and back leads me to believe that aspects of both Randy's scenario and Ric's scenario seem plausible. Lambrecht states that the planes did "repeated circling and zooming". If they circled anti-clockwise, the island would be to their left; clockwise circling would put it to the right. Would Ric's "4 to 5 o'clock position" taken during departure from a clockwise circling yield the same results as Randy's "picture from the W" if they had been circling anti-clockwise? And would this also be the same as Ric's "7 to 8 o'clock position" given anti-clockwise circling?

Similarly, based on the "pickup" time (1030) listed by Lambrecht, the position of the Colorado at this time (174.40 W, 4.50S), and the position of the SE tip of the island (174.49W, 4.70S), the difference in distance between a "direct" flight path back from Carondelet Reef to the pickup point vs. a "detour" via the island appears to be on the order of less than 15nm. If this wouldn't take much additional time, the fliers could have returned to "take one last look", taking Randy's picture from the SE in the process. Clearly more speculation! I suppose it would be expecting too much to see well defined shadows somewhere in the image!


Lambrecht report 07/16/1937 posted on TIGHAR website
Colorado.pdf (record 167) from TIGHAR Research CD
USS Bushnell Survey (Sheet 9) via Randy Jacobson

Subject: Re: Lambrecht photo vantage point and tidal data
Date: 10/14/99
From: Randy Jacobson

I apparently relied upon memory, by assuming Carondelet Reef was SW of Gardner: it is really SSE. Nevertheless, the flight path back from Carondelet to the USS Colorado places the planes relatively close to Gardner, and the view would have been to the pilot's left. If the photo was taken upon departure from Gardner, the prevailing view would have been directly behind the pilot's seat. I think the most reasonable time of the photo being taken would be just prior to landing in the lee of the Colorado.

From Ric

According to the deck log, Colorado sighted Gardner Island "bearing 179.5 degrees (True), distance about 15 miles" at 09:45. They "sighted a wrecked ship a little to right of island bearing 180 degrees (True)." That places the ship about 15 miles directly north of the island on a heading of 150 degrees True and a speed of 13 knots 35 minutes before they changed course to create a lee for the first plane to land at 10:20. That puts them about 12 miles northeast of the island when the planes are recovered. In order to take the photo on the way back to the ship the flight would have to deviate 8 miles west from a direct course from Carondelet reef. There is no mention in any of the reports (Capt. Friedell's offcial report, Lambrecht's article for the Weekly Newsletter, or Short's letter to his father) of two flights being made over Gardner Island.

Subject: Flight manifest
Date: 10/14/99

Does anyone know where I can get a copy of the manifest or inventory listing all items aboard the Electra when it left Florida? I know I've seen it, I just don't remember where.

I need to ascertain whether Fred was packing a bottle of B&B or just plain Benedictine, a much inferior concoction. You know what a drinker he was...

Okay, I'm kidding about the last part. But would appreciate a copy of the manifest, or directions on where to find it.

From Ric

I'm aware of no such manifest. Sure wish there was one, but I suspect that you're thinking of the inventory of the plane that was done by the Army Air Corps following the Luke Field accident that ended the first world flight attempt. In her usual style, Earhart walked away from the wreck and went home that same day leaving the Army to clean up the mess and ship the plane back to California. A young lieutenant (bless his shavetailed heart) made an obsessively detailed inventory of the contents of the plane as part of that process. We'll put up on the TIGHAR website as a Document of the Week very soon. It's fascinating, informative and contains some items that we can't even identify (what, dare we ask, is a Vibracorder?).


Subject: Vibracorder
Date: 10/14/99
From: Harry Poole, Dennis McGee

I cannot guarantee it, but I believe it might be a recorder of some type using a vibrator power supply. Power supplies from generators at that time often used a vibrating reed relay to convert the DC power to AC for transformers. These were described as vibrator power supplies.

Harry #2300

From Dennis McGee

OK, I know Ric put this up here just for me, so I'll bite . . . an early form of a tape recorder, right? You know, "vibra" as in vibrate as in vocal cords . . . . I'm gonna stop right there and not go ANY further.

LTM, (nope, not gonna say it!)
Dennis O. McGee #0149CE

From Ric

Thank you Dennis.

The complete entry is -- Vibracorder "Ohmer-Kienzle" -- which, I presume, must be the manufacturer. I didn't think that the magnetic tape recorder had been invented yet in 1937. I know there were "wire recorders" that came first.

Subject: Vibracorder
Date: 10/14/99
From: Bob Cullinan, Antonio Gomez

I found this definition on the web:

"Vibracorders are specially designed clocks with chart recorders that measure movement."

I'm not sure what AE &FN would use this for, but at least we know what it is.

Bob Cullinan

From Ric

Hmmmm. I know that a "barograph" is a device that combines a clock with a barometer (altimeter) and records readings over time on a graph on a revolving drum. They're used to verify record flights.

From Antonio

I found this searching yahoo.


To evaluate the differences in grazing behavior, three Quarter horse mares and three yearling steers were grazed together on a .75 hectare (ha) orchardgrass pasture. Grazing behavior was measured using a vibracorder attached to the halter of each animal. Vibracorders are specially designed clocks with chart recorders that measure movement. During grazing, the movement of the head marks the chart and grazing activity can be determined.

Antonio Gomez Abraham

From Ric

Sounds like there was some weird stuff going on in the back of that airplane.

Subject: Vibracorders Galore
Date: 10/15/99
From: William Webster-Garman, Ty Sundstrom

To my knowledge, there was never an audio recording device called a "vibracorder". Wire recorders were VERY primitive (read: "not very useful") and expensive in 1937. People generally used transcription discs, which sounded fairly good by then, for really important stuff. By 1940, wire recorders were being successfully marketed to the US business community as dictation devices. Their bandwidth was very narrow, distortion and dropouts were high, and they were barely able to handle the reproduction of a slow, clearly enunciated voice.

The magnetic tape recorder was slowly developed in Germany through the late 30s-early 40s and was essentially unknown outside of Germany until 1945. That year, allied intelligence types had become mystified how Germany could afford to assemble full, high quality symphony orchestras to play Beethoven and Wagner live at 3AM in the waning days of the war. The mystery was solved when the Reichrundfunk studios in Hamburg were overrun: The place had several new magnetic tape machines and reels of celluloid tape coated with red iron oxide containing recordings of orchestral music. The two big, early American tape recorder manufacturerers, Ranger (named after the elite army unit) and Ampex, inherited their original technology directly from machines looted by US army personnel from German radio studios and smuggled privately back to the states. This formed the basis of audio recording technology in the US and Europe for the next 35 years.

william 2243

From Ric

Is this a cool Forum or what?

From Ty Sundstrom

Many early aircraft used vibrator type time recorders that would show flight hours, as recording type tachometers were not in vogue until after W.W.II and were seldom seen on light aircraft (Taylorcraft, Luscombe, Aeronca, etc.) as standard equipment until even later. The more expensive light aircraft or slightly larger (Cessna 195, Beech 35, etc.) ones, often were the first to have recording tachs as standard issue equipment. They (vibrating recorders)often were secured from tampering via a key lock built into the recorder box.

Sort of like an early flight data recorder in its simplest form.

Ty Sundstrom

From Ric

Mystery solved. Thanks Ty.

Subject: Norwich City/Reef Debris
Date: 10/15/99
From: Don Neumann

In several posts over the past month, we've made much about the seeming paradox of the native islanders seeing wreckage that they perceived to be from an aircraft & european persons visiting the island, who never recorded ever seeing such wreckage.

It has occurred to me (being an avid fisherperson) that if many of the islanders spent much of their time fishing on &/or off the reef, they would probably have spent a great deal of that time around the immediate area of the Norwich City wreck, because the wreck itself & its debris field would prove to be an excellent artificial structure serving as a relatively safe haven for forage fish seeking to flee from the jaws of larger, predator fish foraging for food on or around the reef. Thus these islanders, spending considerable time, in reasonably close proximity to the wreck & having a fairly intimate familiarity with the reef & it's environs, on a frequent basis, would certainly have far greater perception of the debris/wreckage that existed on the reef than visitors lacking that same perspective.

Also, the question was raised as to why would AE/FN leave the immediate area of the Norwich City for any other location on the island. We might recall that AE/FN had no knowledge that the US Navy was about to launch such a broad based _aerial_ search & probably concluded their only hope of rescue was the Itasca, which had been unable to home in on their radio signals; therefore, since the Norwich City could only be seen on one side of the island (from sea level), it would seem prudent to explore the island (at least along the open beaches) to establish (if possible) more than one visable site from which they could look for the approaching Itaska, before their strength, water & any provisions they had available, ran out.

My only problem with such scenario, is why they didn't try to leave some sort of signal or sign as to which direction they headed. (Of course maybe they did but the transient nature of the signals or signs they left were quickly obliterated by the hostile environment of the island.)

Unfortunately, 62 years later, it's almost impossible to reconstruct the factual scenario they were acutally faced with (one or both injured or ill, shortage &/or lack of fresh water & food, the aircraft badly damaged upon landing or destroyed by high/rough surf shortly thereafter), so the best we can do is speculate what they might have done under various circumstances we might envision, with no degree of certainty that is what they actually did & of course we keep on looking for the remains of the plane & the crew. (Certainly a tantalizing combination of fascination & frustration!)

Don Neumann

From Ric

I really really like your point about why you go fishing near the Norwich City. Not being a "fishperson" myself I hadn't thought of that.

Subject: More Vibracorders
Date: 10/15/99
From: Mark Turner

I believe that the Ohmer-Kienzle Vibracorder is now similar to the Mannesman VDO Kienzle Tachograph. It could have been used to show that the airplane had not landed prematurely during a World Flight attempt, or the non-stop flight from Hawaii to California. See this Web page

Historical data on Kienzle:

A heritage of innovation in precision instrumentation. The tachograph was invented in 1921 by Kienzle Apparate GmbH, a German company which was the original parent of VDO Instruments. Today VDO Instruments, VDO Instruments and Kienzle are part of Mannesmann AG, a multinational corporation with annual revenues of over $18-billion. Mannesmann is a leading supplier of high technology products, with a major emphasis in vehicular and process control instrumentation. This commitment to innovation and precision in instrumentation is a valuable resource to VDO as it strives to meet the high expectations of North American companies and public agencies for advanced fleet operation information systems.

Mark L. Turner

From Ric

Earhart was scheduled to make many, many stops during the world flight attempt. Nobody cared how many stops she made. From what Ty Sundstrom says it seems most likely that the vibracorder was aboard simply to keep track of engine time in the absence of recording tachometers.

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